My family is looking forward to Rosh Hashanah (Jewish New Year) this year, for the apples and honey, celebrating with friends and family, and delicious brisket dinner. The holiday starts this year on Sunday evening, Sept. 9, and goes until Tuesday, Sept. 11. Ever wonder why they begin the holiday at night, rather than on the next morning?
“How could G-d have asked Abraham to sacrifice his son? What kind of father could Abraham be to go along with such a request?” These are the questions we hear after services on Rosh Hashanah. People are incredulous that a loving G-d would ask any father, much less one he has singled out as the leader of his chosen people, to take the life of his adored child.
The next time you sit down to eat a nice salad, give a little thought to the poor cows. Day in, day out, all they eat is plain old grass.
Imagine a grass diet 365 days a year. Some days it’s wet, some days it’s dry. No dressing, no salt, just grass. After a while, all that grass can really get to you. Most of the world’s animals get along perfectly fine on a simple and consistent diet. But not man.
On July 25, Rabbi Kenneth Brander fulfilled a lifelong dream of making aliyah (moving to Israel). And just in time — the former Yeshiva University vice president, dean of Yeshiva University’s Center for the Jewish Future, rabbi emeritus of the Boca Raton Synagogue, and founder of the Katz Yeshiva High School is the newly-minted president and rosh yeshiva (head of school) of Ohr Torah Stone (OTS).
We are often taught to be careful with what we say. It might be hurtful to others (ona’at dvarim), it might make us look foolish (chilul Hashem), or it might not exactly be true (sheker), so think twice before talking. On top of the social reasons to be careful with what we say, the Torah tells us about shvuah, or an oath, and says that if a person swears that they did or did not do something or swears that they will do or will not do something, the Torah says that we must keep our word or we will have violated one of the mitzvot. So, when we see this week’s parsha (Torah portion) has yet another commandment called “Don’t break your word on a vow” (“Lo yachel dvaro”), it sounds like we have yet another mitzvah telling us the same thing. Be careful with what you say. Why does the Torah repeat itself?
In this week’s Torah portion, Shelach, the Jewish people have completed the short trek from Mount Sinai to the Land of Israel. G-d tells them to send the heads of each tribe to scope out the land. After 40 days, the spies return. Ten of the spies bring back a bad report, and though two spies assure the people that with G-d’s help they will be able to go into the Promised Land, the Jewish people, in their cowardice, follow the 10. As a result, they are doomed to spend 40 years in the desert until a new generation of Jews, born in the desert, comes to Israel.
Picture this scene: It’s 1944, and a band of SS soldiers have overtaken a small village on a hill in occupied France. U.S. General George Patton has them surrounded and is about to order a frontal assault led by 27 very impressive Sherman tanks.
On a holiday when many Jewish communities focus on unity, one community event this past Tisha B’Av sought to emphasize the need for more debate. “Machloket Matters” was the title of a Beltway Vaad-sponsored learning program, featuring rabbis and educators who taught texts highlighting the important role of healthy machloket (disagreement or debate) in Jewish life.
We have all experienced misery, but few people try to understand it.
This week, we learn that the punishment for an accidental murder (i.e., manslaughter) is that the perpetrator is to be exiled to what the Torah calls a city of refuge (ir miklat). What if the accidental murderer (let’s call him Fred) attempts to leave? Let’s say Fred wants to visit his new granddaughter, or go to his nephew’s bar mitzvah.
In this week’s parsha (Torah portion), Miriam dies, and immediately the well that had supplied the Jewish people with water for 40 years ceased to flow. It is from here that we learn that the Jewish people had this well on Miriam’s merit — millions of people depended on her for 40 years.
In this week’s Torah portion, Naso, the Torah further describes the travels of the Jewish people in the desert toward Israel and the specific form taken by each tribe along this journey. Midway through the portion, the Torah inserts six seemingly unrelated verses. The disjointed section discusses the commandant of the priestly blessings, Birkat Kohanim. The Torah describes G-d’s commandment to Moshe to speak to Aaron and his children and instruct them in blessing the Jewish people. This was a blessing said in the Temple, and is recreated during our contemporary prayer service on a daily basis in Israel and in exile during the holidays.
- Gambling on the Game of Life
- What the Talmud Tells Us About Caring for Our Parents
- All You Need Is Love
- The Shiva House of a Fallen Soldier on Yom Hazikaron
- Matzah: Food or Slavery?
- The Ten Plagues and the Seder
- The Journey of Life
- Between G-d and the Devil
- Megillas Esther: The Medium is the Message